Thetford hospital homes plan rejected

PLANS to build 13 new homes on the former Thetford Cottage Hospital site have been rejected due to concerns the scheme could damage a neighbouring business.

PLANS to build 13 new homes on the former Thetford Cottage Hospital site have been rejected due to concerns the scheme could damage a neighbouring business.

NHS Norfolk submitted the proposals to convert the 19th-century hospital building in Earls Street into four flats, while demolishing more recent extensions to make way for a further nine houses with 15 parking spaces.

A decision on the development was deferred by Breckland Council's development control committee in February after the owner of the neighbouring bar and snooker hall said it could jeopardise his business and livelihood.

Paul Mossop, who has run the Thetford Snooker Centre in Odd Fellows Hall for 24 years, said the sudden appearance of new houses close by would generate complaints as his customers left the licensed premises at night.

Revised plans were put before the committee on Mondaywhich moved the closest two houses 1.4m further away from the snooker centre and included a 2.1m brick wall and extra planting to screen the houses from the business.

Principal planning officer Nick Moys said the scheme was considered acceptable as it preserved the historic hospital building while providing town-centre homes whose occupiers should have a reasonable expectation of some noise.

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But councillors voted narrowly against the officers' recommendation, with a vote of seven to six to refuse the application on the grounds of its impact on the “viability of neighbouring business premises”.

Mr Mossop said: “I have viewed the new plans for houses 12 and 13 and I feel nothing has been improved by moving them. These houses will still be subject to disturbance which will unwillingly be caused by my customers.

“We are one of the best venues in the town and people who are mainly aged between 18 and 30 will be walking down the side of these houses. These are groups of young people leaving after an evening out and you cannot expect them to keep silent.”

Mark Nolan, the agent working on behalf of NHS Norfolk, said: “This application was deferred to allow us to address these concerns about the comings and goings at the snooker club, which we have done.

“To lose a unit will affect the viability of the whole development. It is a town centre development and residents should acknowledge there will be more noise here than in a rural location.”

Councillor Nigel Wilkin said the site should not be developed at the expense of a thriving leisure business.

“It is a tricky situation,” he said. “This club has run successfully for many years but as soon as these houses are built some people will see the egress from the club as too much to bear and we will see the club close down. The livelihood of this man will be gone and we will lose another entertainment venue for the young people in the town.”

The cottage hospital became redundant almost three years ago when health workers and patients moved to a new �4.5m healthy living centre on the edge of town. Proposals to knock down the entire hospital and build 14 homes were rejected in November 2008 because of the loss of a historic heritage building.